Resolved: tournaments are awesome. So if I see a tournament, I’m bringing it to you in an attempt to see if you can find someone you love. Since the retro stuff wasn’t getting replies, let’s go the up-to-date shows. In this case, it’s a one-night, eight-man tournament billed as a Strong Style tournament.
Strong Style is one of those things I didn’t like as a concept for a very long time because it was based on hitting your opponent harder than normal even though it wasn’t a real fight. But as with all things, evolution happens. The rise of UFC has allowed for a different type of strong style, one where people are strikers instead of grapplers. Let’s see which one is on display here as we look back at one of last week’s signature shows.
The PG Era Rant for St Louis Anarchy’s In Your Hall: Strong Style. Tape runtime: 188 minutes.
From Alton, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River. Show date February 21, 2020.
Your hosts are Sean Orleans, Mac Jackson, and Dylan Hales, with Stepstool Sarah as your ring announcer.
The eight people in this tournament are: Aaron Williams, Brett Ison, Curt Stallion, Daniel Makabe, Erick Stevens, Gary Jay, Jake Dirden, and Thomas Shire. (In the picture above — Back row, l-r: Stevens, Jay; Middle row, l-r: Ison, Makabe; Front row, l-r: Dirden, Shire, Williams, Stallion.)
Opening match, quarterfinal: Erick Stevens vs. Gary Jay. Erick Stevens is billed as “Too Old For This (crap)” and Gary Jay’s introduced with a middle name that starts with F. What I’m saying is, Tommy Hall should not watch this show. And we start with a brawl as they exchange forearms and chops. Jay cuts off Stevens against the ropes and shoots a forearm to send him out of the ring, following with his trio of dives. Jay chops Stevens on the outside – in this tournament, it’s pinfall or KO only, so countout’s a non-factor – but he charges into a powerslam on the apron.
Big chop on the outside and, back in, a running elbow floors Jay. Russian legsweep and Octopus hold by Stevens, into a cradle, into a Koji Clutch. Jay gets out, only to get chucked into the corner and chopped some more. Blind charge misses and Jay gets a low Complete Shot for two. Big ol’ chops by Jay and a dropkick for two. Stevens is ticked off and comes back with chops into a suplex/backstabber combo. Both men are down.
Both get up and decide to do a chop-off, which goes so far as to have both men do Kobashi machine gun chops before Stevens wins it with a rolling elbow and low plancha. Back in, and a leaping elbow and lariat in the corner leads to the Gut Check and Doctor Bomb for two. Tiger Bomb try, but Jay fights out with a headbutt and tornado Flatliner for two. Release German by Stevens, into a powerslam into the corner and a lariat. Pumphandle driver follows for two. Brainbuster try, but Jay blocks. Stevens with a big knee to the face instead, but Jay slips out of a brainbuster only to get elbowed into a daze. Stevens sets up for a rolling elbow, only for Jay to CLOCK him with one of his own for the KO at 10:14. (**1/4)
THOUGHTS: This opener was good for establishing the different rules of the tournament. Submissions that could have ended a normal match didn’t even have the referee check because there are no submissions, while a fight on the outside didn’t lead to a ten-count. On top of it, it ended with a KO out of nowhere, which is one of the special rules. The opener did its job, and on top of that, Jay now has a lethal finisher.
Before our second match, Jeremy Wyatt comes out to do a promo. He brags about a 500 day reign with 28 defenses, going over everyone he’s defended against. Tonight, he was to defend against Anthony “Sharkbait” Gutierrez, but Gutierrez got hurt. Even though in wrestling, you fight through injuries, Gutierrez couldn’t do that, so Wyatt figures he has the night off.
Not so fast, because Evan Gelistico enters the ring and says he brought his gear, so how about it? (I think that’s what he said – the mic is turned VERY low.) But Wyatt says that Gelistico isn’t that good a wrestler and is certainly not in Wyatt’s league. Wyatt says it isn’t worth it, so Gelistico corners him and says he used to be the gold standard and can be that again, and he’s not taking no for an answer. Wyatt agrees and leaves.
Quarterfinal: Brett Ison vs. Aaron Williams. Brett Ison is Southern Underground Pro’s biggest strong style icon. Williams charges in at the bell with a shotgun dropkick and Stinger Splashes, but runs into a big boot. Ison with some Iron Elbows and a snapmare, then just kicks Williams in the head. Williams fights out of the corner, but Ison no-sells some kicks and attacks him in the corner with a back elbow and facewash. Williams ducks a lariat and gets a back roundhouse kick. Ison bails to recover, only for Williams to hit a Jericho-esque dropkick and dive… into Ison’s arms as he powerbombs Williams into the wall!
Somehow, this isn’t a KO as we go back into the ring, and Williams bails only for Ison to dive onto him. Back in again, it gets two. Ison forearms Williams down and works him over in the corner, but a blind charge eats boot and Williams fights back. Ison ducks a roundhouse and gets a release backdrop driver for two. Williams tries to fight from underneath, but Ison casually gives a kneelift. Williams up and over in the corner, but he slips out of a tilt-a-whirl and gets Roll the Dice for one. Williams takes his shirt off and throws it at Ison before kicking away, but Ison just wants more.
Ison catches a kick and tries to lariat Williams, but Williams ducks and gets a roundhouse. Fireman’s carry goes nowhere, but Williams recovers with a clothesline in the corner and a knee to the face. Screwdriver by Ison (which nearly sent Williams through the ceiling) gets two. Ison pulls off the wrist tape (so you know he means business), and he absorbs some Williams forearms to floor Williams with one Iron Elbow.
Williams has had enough and spits on Ison, which is a death wish, and in fact Ison shrugs off a DDT try and gets a big elbow and Body Vice into a GTS for two. Ison now pulls down the kneepad and goes for the strike, but Wiliams catches it and gets a leg-trap suplex. Roundhouse kick follows when Ison powers up, and two Shining Wizards get the KO at 9:34. (*1/2)
THOUGHTS: Commentary played this up as a huge upset, especially by knockout. Ison is a guy who has a PCO-like presence, which made the David and Goliath story work, but it felt like the wrong guy won. Ison shrugged off a bunch of shots, but not at the end.
And before we can introduce our next match, we have another interruption by the defending trophy holder Greg Jovi. He claims he invented the format we see tonight, and he wants to make sure the winner of this tournament deserves it. (Sorry, there’s so much booing I can barely hear him.) And he knows who the winner will be: Jake Dirden! And that opener is next!
Quarterfinal: Jake Dirden vs. Curt Stallion. Dirden looks like a 6’6 biker dude, complete with small LOD-like shoulderpads. Dirden shoves Stallion around, who just keeps asking for more. Stallion headbutts Dirden and both men are dazed. Buck-Off gets reversed, but a double stomp gets two. Stallion is held up by Jovi at ringside and Dirden takes over with a big boot. Right hands follows, staggeting Stallion. A slam follows. Dirden keeps coming with right hands and backs him into the corner, chopping him hard, but that just fires Stallion up.
Stallion tries to fight through another chop, so Dirden goes to the eyes and Jovi chokes Stallion. Dirden steps on Stallion’s head and throws him across the ring. And Jovi chokes him again, which draws the ref but Dirden doesn’t take advantage. Dirden with a back elbow, but Stallion can continue. Headbutt by Dirden, but Stallion gets one of his own to send Dirden to the outside. Stallion dives, but Dirden catches him and throws him into the corner.
Dirden pounds on Stallion in the corner and bites Stallion’s forehead. Back in, Stallion tries to box down Dirden only to get floored by an overhead right and some more shots. Dirden kicks and stomps him in the corner, but Stallion pulls himself up and slaps Dirden. Dirden floors Stallion with one shot, but Stallion isn’t done. Dirden adds more forearms and goes for a DDT, but Stallion reverses out of nowhere to a brainbuster and both men are down. Running leg lariat and knee in the corner, then the Shibata dropkick follows.
He goes for a DDT, but Dirden blocks only to get German suplexed for two. Stallion looks for the Buck-Off, but Dirden shoves him off and gets a short-arm clothesline for two. Dirden with a chokeslam for two. Dirden with a spear, after measuring Stallion for days, and it’s STILL two. Crowd with a You Can’t Beat Him chant as Dirden slaps around a half-dead Stallion, but a Shibata headbutt and O’Connor roll steal the win for Stallion at 11:38 (*3/4).
THOUGHTS: Another upset? After the first two matches ended in KO, this one ending in a glorified cradle exists to remind people that it’s a valid way to win. Dirden was very slow and did not impress me, but Stallion did everything he could.
Quarterfinal: Daniel Makabe vs. Thomas Shire. Makabe is from the Pacific Northwest and is a submission wrestler, but he’s a tournament specialist and gets a ton of streamers. Shire is a local favorite and gets maybe even MORE. Makabe (in an AC Milan jersey) and Shire do Code of Honor to start. Makabe takes the arm, then spins into a waistlock. Shire with a drop toehold and a ride, going for arm control but settling to a front chancery. Shire then goes for the leg, only Makabe gets wrist control and floats over.
A top wristlock follows, into a test of strength, with Makabe bridging even though Shire drops his weight. Makabe drops into a guard and they fight for wrist control, but Makabe holds a leglock and the two are tangled into a handstand handshake and stalemate. Beautiful. Shire gets the arm and tries to control, but Makabe reverses control and hooks an Atlantis Stretch. He powers Shire down and tries to break his bridge only for Shire to take the guard and the two reverse like crazy into another stalemate… after which Shire sucker punches Makabe.
Makabe can’t get a single-leg, so Shire gets top control and works into a bow-and-arrow. Makabe flips out into a wristlock, so Shire fights up and delivers an uppercut. Big chop by Shire, but Makabe boxes out only to get his arm punched. Shire with a leg trip and THE STRAP COMES DOWN as Shire rakes Makabe’s nose and smothers him into the chinlock. Makabe fights out and uppercuts Shire out of the ring. Makabe follows, and both men tease hitting the post before Makabe gets the Atlantis Stretch on the floor.
Shire throws him into the apron, and they go back in. Shire gets a facelock and turns it into a seated crossface, but Makabe reverses to a waistlock and tries a German. No dice, as Shire mantains control and uppercuts Makabe. Shire with a Hammer Throw and uppercut, and he gets a bodyscissors. Makabe tries to hook an ankle to escape, but Shire keeps re-applying. Makabe forces Shire to switch to a headlock and fights out, pushing Shire into the corner and getting a cross-corner dropkick. Release German suplex follows, and Makabe with an STF. There’s no submission, mind you, so Shire breaks the leg tension and forces Makabe to pull him up into uppercuts. One of them becomes a backslide for two, but Makabe hooks the legs and gets the mount into a Cattle Mutilation.
Shire slips out and drops an Eye of the Hurricane for two. Shire tries a half-nelson suplex, then a straitjacket suplex, but Makabe blocks both and gets a baseball punch to rock Shire. Makabe with an armlock and he tries for more, but Shire fights out. Shire is to his feet, and the two trade blows. Makabe goes down first, and Shire wants a fallaway slam, but Makabe slips out only to be caught in a sleeper suplex for two. Torture Rack, but Makabe escapes to a side headlock and gets Cattle Mutilation again. Shire can’t stay in it, so Makabe turns it into a cradle for the pin at 12:48. (***)
THOUGHTS: I loved the chain wrestling and unique counters early on. Not a fan of the trading blows in the middle, since Shire and Makabe were having a good clean technical wrestling match beforehand. Makabe did his part to be a Wrestling Genius (his nickname), and Shire found himself trapped at the end. Makabe has to be a favorite over Stallion given his ability to cradle and wear people down.
The Viking War Party (Warhorse and Herzog) vs. The Hooligans (Devon Cutter and Mason Cutter). This is the Hooligans’ retirement match. The Vikings throw chairs into the ring before the match even begins, so I’m assuming this will be a hardcore match. (Who am I kidding, I’ve seen the Hooligans – all of their matches have been hardcore!) The Hooligans throw more plunder in (hitting Stepstool Sarah in the process) before posing in the crowd. Commentary lays out of this match.
Yup, it’s a huge brawl to start. Maosn dominates Warhorse, while Herzog pounds on Devin. Mason with a bread pan to Warhorse’s head, and Devin stops Herzog with a testicular claw. Mason puts a bucket on Warhorse’s head and knocks it off with a crutch. Devin produces a lawn chair – really – before dropping elbows on Herzog to send him to the floor. Warhorse gets double-hiptossed into the lawn chair, which breaks underneath him. Devin grabs a chair seat and hits Herzog across the back, but Herzog comes back and rakes Mason’s eyes.
Warhorse holds Mason open and the Vikings pose as they choke him out. Devin fights back with a wrench, but Warhorse with the cookie sheet to break it up… temporarily. Devin keeps stabbing Herzog, and when Warhorse tries to pull the arm away, Mason throws a chair seat into his head. Mason chucks a chair at Herzog while Devin literally kicks Warhorse’s ass. Herzog no-sells some chops against the wall and headbutts Mason, who gives poor Warhorse a receipt. Everyone tumbles into the crowd, where Warhorse smashes a pizza box over Mason’s head… which he quite rightly no-sells to continue the brawl.
Devin sticks a camera tripod where the sun don’t shine on Herzog, while Warhorse tosses Mason into a bunch of chairs. Devin finds Warhorse and the two brawl while Herzog gets another chair thrown at him. He returns it to Mason and chases him as the Hooligans are both caught. Warhorse goes up a half-flight of stairs and dives onto both Hooligans. The Vikings celebrate as everyone moves chairs into position and we play a game of Hit The Guy Next To You Really Hard. After a few rounds, we go to the advanced class, Throw A Chair At The Guy Next To You’s Head Really Hard. Still no clear winner, mind you. Everyone sits back down to go back to the Hit The Guy game.
Devin has finally had enough of that and pummels Warhorse half dead, forcing Herzog to fight both guys by himself. To his credit, he headbutts Mason into a gooey paste, leading us with a seated strike-off between Devin and Herzog. Devin ends that exchange with a semi-protected chair shot, which Herzog returns before everyone collapses. Herzog’s up first, and everyone heads back to ringside (because why not) so Herzog can dive onto all three.
FINALLY, we’re back in the ring as the Vikings have Mason isolated. Herzog with a reverse chokeslam, Warhorse with a lariat, and Devin is caught with a powerbomb/dropkick combo for two. Devin and Mason are back up but wobbly, and the Vikings pound them down. Warhorse and Herzog kick away in the corners, but another wrestler (Neil Cutter, their “little brother”) races in to attack the Vikings. The third Viking (Frank the Tank, in street clothes) comes in and piledrives him, and the War Party triple-team him.
Which is nice, but now the Hooligans are back up with stereo Stunners. Rocket Launcher onto Herzog and an assisted moonsault follow, then a wheelbarrow DDT combo for a very close two. Crowd is going nuts. Devin picks Warhorse up as Mason goes up top, but Herzog catches Mason. Warhorse with a Codebreaker to Devin and he holds it while Herzog powerbombs Mason onto Devin for the simultaneous pins at 14:07 (**3/4).
THOUGHTS: This was a psychotic brawl, which is what the Hooligans are really good at when I’ve seen them. Commentary would’ve helped this match, but to be fair, given all the crowd brawling I’m not sure how much the announcers could’ve seen from their desk. The Hooligans went out on their shields here, which is the right call as Warhorse is a future star.
Devin asks for a mic after the match to give a farewell speech. He thanks the crowd for being there and says they’re some of the best they’ve seen in 15 years. Herzog says the Hooligans did so much for the Vikings that they love them and thank them. Warhorse talks about the trips they took together and how much he enjoyed them. Everyone hugs as we go to intermission.
Ah, intermission got cut. Let’s go.
Semifinal: Gary Jay vs. Aaron Williams. Both guys won by KO in round one, so you have to think that’s a story going in. Jay with a forearm shot on the bell, and he chops Williams in the corner. Williams fights off, but a blind charge misses and Williams scrambles away from the forearm winner. Both men bail, and Jay is back first to do his triple dives. Williams catches the third one and gets a savate kick into the apron. Back in, Williams chops Jay into the corner before hitting shinkicks to the chest. Jay gets sent to the apron and Williams follows, DDTing him on the apron. Seeing as that’s the hardest part of the ring, the ref checks, but Jay will continue.
Williams with a quebrada onto Jay. He poses on the chair, but that’s a no-no in this fed so he pops back down and apologizes to the crowd. Back in, Jay with the KO forearm for two out of nowhere. Jay chops Williams into the corner, but Williams prevents a hammer throw and gets Jay into the Tree of Woe, slugging him down. Running knee by Williams and a fisherman’s bomb gets two. Williams goes up top, but Jay catches him and strikes his ear. Superplex by Jay and both men are down.
They crawl to each other and help each other up, slapping each other while on their knees. Jay ends it with a headbutt, but the strikefest resumes as both are standing up. Williams ducks the forearm and gets an STO and Batista Bomb for two. Williams is out of ideas, getting cradled for two, and Jay gets a Michinoku Driver for two. Jay pulls himself up and goes up top, but Williams kicks him silly and gets a Tower of London for two. Williams adjusts the shinguard and pulls Jay up, getting a roundhouse kick for two, reversed to a cradle for two. Forearm connects flush, and Williams is unconscious for the KO at 9:52 (**).
THOUGHTS: Too many near-falls that shouldn’t have been, but both guys unloaded with everything they had. In the end, Jay’s forearm smash is getting over as a one-hit KO. Williams sold like a champ, even doing the zombie arms.
Semifinal: Curt Stallion vs. Daniel Makabe. Makabe is now in the Chelsea jersey. They jockey for position to start, with Makabe getting a wristlock. Stallion gets taken to the mat but switches to a headscissors, only for Makabe to fight out and give Stallion a charley horse. The two slap each other, and Stallion gets up and rips his headband off so he’s serious. Makabe calmly grabs a headlock and backs into the corner, but Stallion chops away only to be caught again into a sleeper.
Stallion can’t snapmare out, and Makabe keeps the sleeper on until Stallion fights out. Makabe into an Atlantis Stretch, grinding his free hand into Stallion’s short ribs, but Stallion reverses to the Buck-Off out of nowhere for two. Stallion with a series of kneedrops for two. Stallion with a hard forearm in the corner as Makabe slumps down, and Stallion stomps on the feet only for Makabe to catch Stallion’s hands and a tug-of-war breaks out. Stallion backs off as Makabe applauds, which allows Stallion to nail the Shibata dropkick and facewash.
Makabe with a sunset flip for two, then an STF. Stallion grabs the fingers to try to break, so Makabe with an elbow to the neck and he switches to a crossface with clubbing blows, into a chinlock. Stallion slips out and gets a German, but a flying headbutt is caught into a sleeper! Makabe stands him up and transitions into a German for two. Makabe with uppercuts, but the baseball punch is caught with a Shibata headbutt and DDT for two. Another Buck-Off try, but Makabe gets a triangle choke while upside down, then the baseball punch gets the KO at 7:00. (**1/2)
THOUGHTS: Makabe looks like he’s got an answer to everything. Getting an inverted triangle choke was a stroke of genius, and turning a sunset flip into an STF was amazing. Stallion loves to do the Shibata headbutt, and when Makabe caught it into a sleeper, the crowd was amazed. Stallion did his best and was able to keep up for the most part, but Makabe was just that much better, and there’s not much you can do when the opponent is better.
Unfortunately, the ring has a malfunction – I believe the chains under the ring need to be re-adjusted – so Sarah stalls for time.
The Family (Christian Rose and Angelus Layne w/Greg Jovi) vs. Billie Starkz and Everett Connors (w/Raoul the Bear). Jovi and Raoul get into a fight before the bell, and Raoul basically mauls Jovi. The teams hold their managers back. Eventually, Starkz and Rose start. Starkz wants to hug it out, but Rose is disinterested. Starkz removes Rose’s headband and mocks Rose’s hairline, so Rose grabs Starkz’s hair and blocks an armdrag. Starkz gets it on the second try, into a cradle for two. Rose cheap shots Connors, but runs into Starkz’s elbow, and Starkz tries a sunset flip, completing it with Connors’ help for two.
Rose floors Starkz and brings in Layne, who gets hit with a forearm as Connors comes in. Double-team by the faces ends with a low dropkick by Connors and they pose. Layne pulls Connors into the corner, then throws him in again and gets double knees to the head. Eye rake on the ropes as Connors is face-in-peril, and Rose kicks him down. Mushroom stomp by Rose, and a slam and senton follow for two. Neck crank by Rose on Connors, who fights out only to get powerslammed for two as Starkz saves.
Rose tosses Starkz out and whips Connors, who gets a satellite DDT. Hot tag Starkz, and she kicks Layne’s head off. A clothesline follows, but Layne tags Rose in. Rose with a suplex throw on Starkz, then on Connors. Double suplex on Rose to return the favor and everyone’s down. Starkz sends Connors to give Rose a forearm, and after some elbows, Connors lands a superkick. Starkz with a Meteora for two, Layne saves. Layne with a spin-out powerbomb for two on Starkz. Starkz avoids a double-team and brings Connors in, and a Stunner/German combo on Layne gets two before Rose pulls the referee out. Jovi sends Raoul into the post as the ref goes after Starkz and Rose, then low blows Connors and puts Layne on top for the win at 8:10. (*1/2)
THOUGHTS: Okay, let me get this straight: I know we’re dealing with wrestling tropes and all, but are you telling me the most lethal move in wrestling is to throw one corpse onto another? I kid, but this was a heel team cheating to beat a face team and thus makes a nice non-tournament match. All the heat is on The Family, not on the ref or the booking, and that’s what you want.
Ah, so the problem with the ring is that a wooden plank has popped loose. Now that’s fixed, let’s continue.
Gateway Heritage Championship: Jeremy Wyatt (champion) vs. Evan Gelistico (challenger). This match will be under Pure rules (crowd boos), so rope breaks are at a premium (three each), and it’s 20 outside the ring. Wyatt works the arm, with Gelistico reversing until Wyatt gets back on top and gets mounted elbows. Evan burns a rope break (3-2). Wyatt picks the ankle and works it to an ankle lock, and Gelistico has to go to the ropes again (3-1). Wyatt does jumping jacks to mock Gelistico. Gelistico with a waistlock, and now Wyatt goes to the ropes (2-1).
Wyatt to a headlock, but Gelistico fights out only to get caught in a top wristlock and chopped hard. Forearm by Wyatt as Gelistico is rocked, but Gelistico reverses a whip into a knee to the gut. Wyatt with another chop, but Gelistico kicks him down and pulls up the shirt to reveal taped ribs. Gelistico sees them and pulls Wyatt’s shirt over his head while stomping on the ribs. He leans on the ropes and steps on Wyatt (who has to grab the ropes on his own for relief – 1-1) before picking him up and landing forearms.
He punches Wyatt to the ribs in the corner, then whips Wyatt pillar to post. Wyatt is hurt, and Gelistico corners him with forearms. He jams his shoulder into Wyatt’s ribs before Hammer Throwing Wyatt over the top rope and out. Gelistico follows and throws Wyatt into the apron. Wyatt rolls in at nine (which allows Gelistico to take his time – it’s a 20 count after all), but Gelistico’s blind charge hits the post and he falls outside. Gelistico rolls in and walks into a lariat. Wyatt with another one as he makes the comeback(?), working over the shoulder.
Wyatt clutches his ribs with every stomp before working the wrist with a boot-aided hammerlock. Gelistico has to put his foot on the ropes (1-0). Wyatt kicks Gelistico out of the ring and follows, getting a Russian legsweep into the apron (with Gelistico’s shoulder hitting the apron hard). Back in, it gets two. Gelistico with a headbutt to the ribs to try to come back, but Wyatt catches Gelistico with a Russian legsweep (which hurts his ribs as much as it hurts Gelistico’s). Wyatt punches away on Gelistico, who responds with forearms of his own. Wyatt goes to the gut and tries a neckbreaker, but Gelistico spins through into a backdrop suplex.
Gelistico begins the comeback of his own, getting an avalanche in the corner. He sets up for a piledriver, but Wyatt trips him only to fall onto Gelistico’s knees. Thrust kick to the ribs gets two. Torture Rack by Gelistico, but Wyatt slips out and lands on the apron. Diving cradle by Wyatt gets two, into a Crossface (and Gelistico’s out of rope breaks!). Billie Starkz distracts the ref as Gelistico taps, and Everett Connors superkicks Wyatt. Gelistico falls on top for two. Baldo Bomb gets two. Wyatt with an inverted DDT for a reversal, but both men are hurt. Connors hands an international object to Gelistico, and Wyatt gets mashed with it for two… only for Wyatt to grab the ropes (0-0).
Gelistico gets a crossface in the bottom rope on Wyatt (no rope break, remember?), switching to a sleeper, but Wyatt goes to the fingers to break. Gelistico gets a middle rope to the face as both men go outside, and Wyatt tosses Gelistico into the post. Piledriver on the floor follows, you’d better believe that’s a countout at 16:57 (***).
THOUGHTS: There were more than a few things I wasn’t a fan of here – ending on a countout, the faces cheating the heels – and one of the rope breaks was missed by both the announcers and the producers, leading many to womder when Wyatt ran out. Most of the beginning of the match was quiet, which may be because Pure rules aren’t popular. That said, give Wyatt a ton of credit here: he told a great story in this match of working through the rib injury (cf his comments earlier to Sharkbait) and being just savvy enough to pull out the win over an oppoentn fighting the match of his life.
Main event, tournament finals: Gary Jay vs. Daniel Makabe. Makabe’s right hand is now taped, and he’s wearing a Belgium national team jersey. Makabe offers the Code of Honor, which Jay accepts before blasting a forearm to Makabe. The two trade shots, with Makabe getting the better of it, stomping on Jay’s hand after a takedown. Dropkick in the corner by Makabe, then another, but the third airballs.
Double stomp by Jay, and both men roll to the outside. They crawl onto the same side apron and slug it out, trading to headbutts, but Makabe corners Jay only to punch the ringpost. Jay with a DDT on the apron, and back in, he gets two. Makabe tries to get feeling back in his hand, but blocks a pop-up knee to get an STF. Jay fights out only to get a German suplex, then another with a bridge for two. Hammerlock trap into a back straitjacket suplex with a bridge follows, for two. Makabe goes for the baseball punch, but Jay blocks it and gets a Blu-Ray for two, with Makabe falling into the ropes. Makabe with a small package for two.
Michinoku Driver by Jay gets two, and on the kickout, Makabe grabs an armbreaker. There’s no submission, though, but Jay is grabbing his arm in pain. Makabe with the baseball punch, but Jay is still moving, so Makabe covers instead for a very close two. Makabe unwinds some of the tape on his hand, but runs into a back elbow. Makabe wraps Jay’s arm around the ropes and tries to break it, but Jay fights him off and lands the KO forearm to win at 8:47 (**1/4).
THOUGHTS: This is how you build a finisher, folks. I had flashbacks, in a good way, to Lance Storm winning the US Title in 2000 with the single-leg crab. Makabe being a cerebral wrestler got him far, but at some point one shot can change a fight, and Jay had that shot.
After the match, Gary Jay takes the mic and salutes Makabe before calling out the champ Jeremy Wyatt for a match at the next show. Wyatt emerges and slowly enters the ring before tossing the belt aside and a brawl breaks out. Everyone races in from the back to keep them apart, but it’s not happening and the brawl goes all around the ring. Wyatt then accepts the challenge once they’re separated, but Jay finds the belt and holds it up and here we go again! Finally, the Usual Idiots(tm) get the separation and Wyatt poses with the belt. Wait, never mind, Jay charges back in and here we go for Round 3! Finally, the extras force Jay to the back, and Wyatt poses with the belt to end the show.
WRAP-UP: Maybe it’s me, but I wasn’t feeling this one. A lot of it was technical issues – not just the ring issues, which are unfortunate, but also the mic work cut in and out. It’s particularly noticeable at the beginning of the show, as you can barely hear Sean for most of the first match, and Jovi and Gelistico were borderline inaudible at times.
As for the matches themselves, I’m not much of a fan of strong style as it’s done on the independent scene, but once or twice a night is perfectly reasonable. We saw it seven times, and in a lot of the matches there was a strike exchange. That gets old quick – people need to communicate with the matches before and after them so there isn’t so much overlap of moments. Also, winning by TKO gets old fast – it doesn’t have the same drama as a pinfall or submission win, and there’s a reason you almost never see it in wrestling.
The bottom line here is that, while the action was perfectly reasonable bell to bell, it didn’t do it for me. Having someone go three times in one night means they’re not at their best at the end; I’m certain if Jay and Makabe had shorter early-round matches (or only one early-round match that day), the final would’ve been an instant classic. I’ve seen enough of both of them to conclude that. This is where a wrestler sometimes has to swallow his pride – not everyone can shine at every match, and having someone willing to do a quick job early is valuable.
If strong style is your thing, this is your thing. It’s not mine. I would AVOID IT, but I’m biased.